Humanitarian, afterall




Minister Farouq


“Do not count your chickens before they are hatched” – so they say, but then I went ahead and and held my breath; and prayed on my gut feeling that they would all hatch and come to life. Back in October 2019, I wrote an article titled, “The burden of humanitarian services and social development”, just when Sa’adiya Umar Farouk was named Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development by PMB. In that piece, I wrote: ‘May God help her to be steadfast in her duties, for her work is thoroughly humanitarian.’ I also wrote: ‘Hon. Sa’adiya Farouk is the human face of the Buhari administration, leading the drive to provide succour for displaced persons, women, children, and the teeming youth population of unemployed Nigerians. She will lead the expansion of the NSIP programme, giving out credit to young entrepreneurs at little or no interest. She will supervise hands-on, the provision of food, clothing, housing and health facilities to vulnerable women in the IDP camps who have been subjected to abuse, rape and all kinds of defilement – when all they deserve is better care and attention, having been victims of warfare.’ Her’s was definitely going to be a very tough one because she was first in the line of fire, as her ministry is supposed to alleviate the sufferings of the poorest, as they faced the brunt of the economic hardship in the country. If she succeeds, then the sufferings and the foul cry of the most challenged in our society will be ameliorated and if she doesn’t, the larger mass of the masses will continue to suffer. 


Almost a year after, I wrote another article titled, ‘A year of servitude and promise’, where I highlighted a key accomplishment of the humanitarian ministry, which was the establishment of the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities as promised by the minister. Over 30 million people living with disabilities had found a home that would pay attention to their special needs and cushion the discomfort they live with. The National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and IDPs was also commissioning 1000 units of houses, from a 10,000 units housing scheme, which is a resettlement initiative dubbed ‘A Model for Africa’, as a cluster of resettlement cities. There were remarkable achievements also, with the N-Power programme along with its key components of N-Agro, N-Tech, N-Edu, N-Health among others. A key feat from this programme is the preparation to absorb those that had exited the programme, into MDAs of government as employees. There was also the introduction of the HUP, which is the Households upliftment programme, that would provide stipends to identified ‘needy’ households, from a newly developed National Social Register. 


In the ‘Year of servitude and promise’ piece, I also said: “The Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, (FMHDSD), has a tall order in view of the economic hardship that has been invited by a global pandemic, and the deregulation of the various sectors of the economy, especially power and oil. The deregulation of these very vital sectors have dire consequences on the lives of the lower class of the society. This combines with an insecurity situation that has beleaguered communities across the country, causing more displacement of persons and compounding the humanitarian crises. The country also has a 70 percent youth population that are mostly unemployed so the factors militating against a more robust impact of the FMHDSD ministry are numerous and quite disastrous. Government’s dependency on oil for forex has been badly affected by dwindling and low oil prices. The Covid19 pandemic has plunged so many countries like the UK, Brazil, Canada and Germany into recession. The stakes are very high, demands are also high and expectations are off the roof and there is just as much as the FMHDSD can do”. 


Since its creation, the humanitarian ministry has been inundated with allegations of impropriety and whatnot, with our media space filled with all sorts of slander and vitriol aimed at the minister. Government was spending a lot of money to provide support to the most disadvantaged in the society, to cushion the claws of the pandemic. Alas, there was huge outcry from all over the country that government wasn’t doing anything at all. Sadiya was ‘hung’ for this and there was no absolving her of blame whatsoever. Then came the endsars protests turned riots and all of a sudden, warehouses and storage facilities were discovered to have foodstuff filled to their brim. Nigerians woke to the realisation that the federal government through the Humanitarian ministry had indeed distributed the food items it had promised or pronounced that it had provided. In fact, the items had been successfully taken to almost all the states of the federation and it was the duty of the state governments to distribute them to different households and communities. Sadiya had confirmed that seventy thousand tonnes of grains were distributed across the country. The endsarssers had not only put an end to sars, but an end also to the accusations and allegations of impropriety levelled against Sa’adiya Farouk. Facebook, WhatsApp groups, Twitter and even Instagram had so many users putting up apologies to Sadiya Farouk, for wrongfully accusing her of embezzling the funds or the food items that were provided by the federal government as palliatives for the Covid-19 pandemic. As it is, those apologies are certainly a morale palliative for her as a public officer, and for us, that have stood up for her once or twice in her first year in office. In my first piece, I prayed that God helps her to be steadfast in her duties as her job was a humanitarian one. In my second piece, I warned that she was facing a tall order as her job had just been made more difficult by the strike of the pandemic. I also prayed that in her second year in office, she sees to it that more households benefit from her ministry’s services with a more profound and transparent drive. It seems that my prayers have been answered albeit in a rather dramatic way. I knew they were wrong about her. When she was at the refugees commission, I went to visit an elderly lady who took ill and was bed ridden for a very long time. I met Sa’adiya there, by the lady’s sick bed, attending to her so well like a nanny or a nurse in an elderly home; and certainly not as a DG of a federal government parastatal. From then on I knew she was a kind hearted person and when the media was demonising her, I felt they were probably wrong about her. I didn’t realise that it would be so soon; that Sa’adiya would be absolved from what she is being accused of and we would be vindicated for giving her our support.
Tahir is Talban Bauchi
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